Working at camp made me realize a few important things about myself that I never would’ve discovered if I had not worked with the BC Easter Seals for my second Co-op term. Before being introduced to occupational therapy through Co-op, I had originally thought that most people obtained a Kinesiology degree with the goal of becoming a physiotherapist. During my first Co-op placement at an occupational rehabilitation clinic, I was introduced to the idea of occupational therapy, but still didn’t have a clear understanding of the full job description. After shadowing the occupational therapist at my previous Co-op term, I learned that occupational therapy is used to develop, recover, or maintain daily living and work skills of people with a physical, mental, or developmental challenges. Due to the fact that daily living skills range from movement and communication to feeding and personal hygiene, I realized that occupational therapy is an amazingly flexible career. From this I decided that working with disabled people would be the ideal way to discover if occupational therapy was right for me which is why I decided on a Co-op term with the BC Easter Seals.
During training week we learned how to aide campers with personal care, feeding, mobility, communication, and everything else needed to make their camp experience comfortable and enjoyable. I began to realize that just because someone has a diagnosis such as autism or Down’s syndrome, almost every disability runs along a spectrum from very high functioning where they may need very little help, or low functioning where more assistance is necessary.
For my third week at camp I worked as a personal support worker and spent every day one-on-one with the same camper from the moment she woke to the moment she went to sleep. During the week I had to learn to observe and decipher her body language to figure out what she wanted or needed, this was due to the fact that she was non-verbal and did not use sign language or alternative visual aides. Through this I realized that there are many ways to communicate and that it is important to adapt your approach to each person differently. This experience also made me realize that I prefer working with several different people in order to specialize on something such as effective nutrition and feeding, rather than working with the same person on a daily basis helping them with everything.
My summer with Easter Seals has allowed me to gain insight on other possible career goals, but I feel that I still have some important decisions to make when deciding between physiotherapy and occupational therapy. Luckily I still have two years left until I finish my Kinesiology degree and there are still many things that can sway my decision either way.
Beyond the Blog
For more opportunities like Rachael's visit SFU's BPK co-op page!